HARRISBURG — In two lopsided votes, the Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has approved two bills that would allow voters to reduce the size of the Legislature.
After lengthy debate a day after a series of amendments were offered and voted on, the House voted on House Bill 1234 to reduce the size of their own chamber to 153 members from 203. That vote passed 148-50. Members also voted 150-48 to approve House Bill 1716, which would reduce the size of the Senate from 50 members down to to 38.
The bills now move to the Senate, which is in recess until 2014.
To change the size of the legislature requires an amendment to the state constitution, which means the same bill must be debated and passed in two consecutive sessions, and subsequently approved by referendum vote of the people of Pennsylvania.
“Ultimately, it is the people of Pennsylvania who will decide whether or not to reduce the size of the General Assembly,” Republican House Speaker Sam Smith said. “Today we have started the process.”
Smith, of Jefferson County, says he’s convinced shrinking the Legislature would result in a more responsive body.
“A smaller legislature will be more efficient,” Smith said. “A smaller legislature means state government will be more productive and more responsive. This bill will bring a greater level of understanding between the people crafting legislation. The end product will be more responsive to the needs and concerns of the people of Pennsylvania.”
The Northeast Delegation of the House overwhelmingly voted in favor of both bills. On House Bill 1234, only Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, voted against. He was also the only representative from Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wayne, Pike, Monroe, Wyoming or Susquehanna counties to vote against House Bill 1716.
Rep. Kevin Haggerty, a Democrat from Dunmore, said he proudly cast his vote in favor of both measures.
“I just voted to downsize the size of the legislature. I did this because the overwhelming majority of my constituents have asked me to do this. There is mistrust in government greater these days than ever before. Also, our taxes are higher than ever before and only by moving forward with government reform measures will the people find any trust in the state and federal bodies they elect,” Haggerty said.